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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in South Africa

Visit the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuaries at Shamwari Private Game Reserve

The rescued lions and leopards at our sanctuaries have grown up in appalling conditions of captivity…

By Catherine Gillson
Born Free Manager at Shamwari Private Game Reserve

Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary and Education Centre was established in partnership with Virginia McKenna’s Born Free Foundation. Guests of Shamwari Private Game Reserve can visit the centre to learn the importance of keeping wildlife in the wild.

As manager of the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary and Education Centre at Shamwari, I love the fact that I can be a voice for those that cannot speak. Behind each of the big cats in our care, there is often a traumatic story. The rescued lions and leopards at our sanctuaries have grown up in appalling conditions of captivity. Whilst they should have been born in the wild, where they belong, unfortunately re-wilding them is not possible. With a dedicated team to monitor them as they adapt to their new surroundings, our sanctuaries give them a better home than they have ever known.

One of the highlights of my ten-year career with Born Free, was when I was privileged to be part of a re-homing and translocation of two male lions, Ciam and Nelson. They were both rescued from different situations of captivity in Europe and temporarily held in a half-way house in Belgium whilst all paperwork was completed. I joined them in Belgium and accompanied them to South Africa to facilitate their safe arrival with us at Born Free, Shamwari, their new forever home.

We have two centres that our Shamwari guests can visit. Located in the southern part of Shamwari Private Game Reserve, the Julie Ward Centre was established in 1999 and provides sanctuary for the rescued cats. Education is also a vital role of what we do and at the Jean Byrd Education Centre, in the northern part of the reserve, we encourage guests, local schools and colleges to learn about South Africa’s wildlife and the importance of conservation for future generations.

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  • Trips to take
  • Wildlife

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Alfred & Catherine Gillson

With a degree in Travel, Tourism and Marketing, Catherine Gillson joined Shamwari in the hospitality division as a lodge manager. With her passion for wildlife and conservation, she moved to the team at the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary and Education Centre where she has been manager for ten years. Living onsite at Shamwari, and fuelled by her hobby of trail running, Catherine loves being outdoors amongst nature. A mum of two, when she has free time, she enjoys photography and watching cricket.

Alfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Andy, who's travelled extensively in South Africa. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - ex banker who can show you the hottest foodie spots in Cape Town, the award-winning young sommelier who can introduce you to Stellenbosch's finest wines and the walking safari ranger who can guide you to the best game.

Freephone an expert 01306 744 656